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Newsbriefs Famine curriculum spreads on web

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

The Irish Famine curriculum approved by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education has been posted on the Nebraska Department of Education’s website.

The curriculum was drawn up by the Moorestown-based Irish Famine Curriculum Committee. The Illinois and Idaho departments of education have linked to the Nebraska website and, according to the committee, other institutions — among them the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Irish National Archives in Dublin, the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia, and education departments in Colorado and Connecticut — are expected to follow with links in the near future.

The curriculum, 115 pages long, deals with issues such as laws that isolated and impoverished the Irish during the Famine, mass evictions during the Great Hunger, and emigration. The argument as to whether British actions, or inaction, during the Great Hunger amounted to genocide is also included in the curriculum.

A number of states are looking at including Famine studies in public school programs with New York expected to adopt a curriculum currently being drawn up at Hofstra University. The Nebraska website, meanwhile, is at www.nde.state.ne.us/SS/irish_ famine.html.

S.F. paper becomes story

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The Irish Herald newspaper in San Francisco was recently rocked by the resignation of three key staff members. Production manager Orla O’Hare, advertising manager Barry Mullis and contributing editor Michelle Drown resigned in a dispute that centered on pay, what the three contended were poor working conditions and their unease over the management of the publication.

Publisher Mikel O’Riordan issued a statement saying that the three departed staff members were replaced within 24 hours. Mullis said that the Herald had enjoyed record advertising revenue every month since October 1998

Broken back breakthrough

An Irish-born Neurobiologist, Marie T. Filbin, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences of Hunter College of the City University of New York, has led a research breakthrough that has important long-term therapeutic potential for victims of spinal cord injuries.

Prof. Filbin, a native of Lurgan, Co. Armagh, has found a way to block the work of inhibitors present in the myelin sheath that prevent the spinal cord from regenerating after injury.

Her findings are reported in the current issue of Neuron magazine.

Up to now, researchers have been focusing on how to block individual inhibitors that prevent axons, the long part of the nerve, to regrow after injury. Filbin’s is the first known discovery of a mechanism that can generally overcome all the inhibitors at once.

"We’ve shown that if you prime a neuron by treating it with certain growth factors called neurotrophins before exposing the neuron to myelin, you completely reverse the inhibition of axonal regrowth," Filbin said.

Now that Filbin has discovered the "in vitro," or test tube, mechanism to regenerate regrowth, her next step will be to test the process "in vivo" — in a living organism — after spinal cord injury.

Filbin, who lives in Manhattan, has been on the Hunter faculty since 1990. Named a CUNY Distinguished Professor last year, she is also a faculty member of CUNY’s Institute for Biomolecular Structure and Function, a national center for gene research based at Hunter. Filbin, who teaches both graduate and undergraduate courses, received more than $670,000 in research grants in the last fiscal year.

Westchester MacBride

The Westchester County, N.Y., County Board of Legislators is set to adopt the MacBride Principles on fair employment in Northern Ireland.

MacBride legislation has been placed before the board by chairman George Latimer and county legislator Louis Mosielo after a campaign for adoption led by the Great Hunger Foundation and Westchester Irish Committee.

Pitt. women in North

An 11-member women’s delegation led by the Ireland Institute of Pittsburgh-inspired Pittsburgh Women’s Leadership Initiative was in Northern Ireland last week attending a women’s forum organized by the Institute and the District Councils of Newry and Mourne.

The forum was aimed at enhancing the status of rural women in the North.

According to Sister Michele O’Leary, the Women’s Initiative was developed in response to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton’s "Vital Voices" conference held in Belfast last September.

Experts aim at RUC

The Irish American Unity Conference has drawn up what it describes as a panel of experts that will recommend "fundamental changes" in police and justice operations in Northern Ireland and respond to the anticipated reports from the Patten Commission and the Criminal Justice Review for Northern Ireland.

"The history of British reports on Ireland is not a happy one and the Unity Conference wishes to offer a fresh, independent, and professional look at law enforcement in Northern Ireland," said IAUC National President Andrew Somers.

The panel includes a U.S. District Judge, a retired police chief, an appeals court judge, several lawyers and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Meanwhile, the National President of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Thomas Gilligan, has criticized joint training involving the RUC and Gardaí.

Gilligan accused the Irish government of being "asleep at the switch" and the RUC of "stonewalling and covering up" evidence relating to the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings which killed 33 people.

Meanwhile, AFL-CIO president John J. Sweeney has called for "dramatic progress" this year with regard to reform of the RUC.

"We must insist that the two Americans on the RUC [Patten] Reform Commission insist on big changes," Sweeney said at the recent Irish-American Labor Coalition dinner in New York.

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